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Question 16 - Impact on Human Health - Full EAF (Part 2)

Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) Workbook

The proposed action may have an impact on human health from exposure to new or existing sources of contaminants.
Two workers in protective suits and gloves handling hazardous material in a bucket

This question asks the reviewing agency to evaluate the potential impacts from exposure to any solid or hazardous substances and contaminants. These substances can be toxic, infectious, inflammable, or corrosive. They can occur as solids, liquids, semi-solids, or gases. Whatever form they take, hazardous substances can adversely affect the environment and human health if not properly handled and disposed of. Both solid and hazardous wastes are regulated by New York State.

Solid Wastes are managed in solid waste management facilities. There are many different kinds of solid waste management facilities in New York. They range from construction and demolition processing facilities to solid waste landfills. Some are closed and not used any more, while others are still active. All solid waste management facilities are permitted, registered, and controlled at the regional level through 6NYCRR Part 360. The general operational requirements for all solid waste management facilities are contained in the Part 360 regulations, Subpart 360-1. Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it potentially dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment. There are many different kinds of hazardous wastes. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, or contained gases. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes, discarded used materials, or discarded unused commercial products such as cleaning fluids (solvents) or pesticides.

A large pile of used tires next to a dumpster

If a site has been part of a remediation (clean-up) in the past, or is currently undergoing remediation, then there is a higher risk of significant adverse environmental impacts resulting from development of or near that site. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Environmental Remediation is in charge of all hazardous waste management programs, including remediation. Their web pages include definitions, regulations, databases, and other information about hazardous waste. A lead agency conducting an analysis of a project that involves environmental remediation should be consulting with the DEC.

To answer this question

Review Part 1 questions D.2.q., E.1. d., E.1.f., E.1.g., and E.1.h.

To determine if you need to answer the sub-questions in this section you should ask:

  • Is the project site on, adjacent to, or near a location that contains contaminants that may be disturbed, released, or leached out?
  • Will the proposed project use, create, dispose of, or store any hazardous substances as part of its construction or operation?

If the project site is not on, adjacent to, or near a contaminated site or does not use, create, dispose of, or store hazardous substances, then there will be no related impacts. Check 'no, or small impact may occur.' If there are, then check 'yes' and then answer sub-questions (a) through (m).

Identifying potential impacts

Four photos showing waste material collection bin and plants

The reviewing agency should evaluate the following sub-questions and decide if there will be any impact. If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact, and decide if the impact will be small or moderate to large. This will depend on the overall scale and context of the proposed project as described in the Introduction to Part 2. The reviewing agency should be reasonable when conducting this review. For additional information on the concept of reasonableness as it applies to SEQR, refer to section F in the Introduction of the SEQR Handbook (PDF) (1.9MB).

  • If the proposed project exceeds a numeric threshold in a question, it is presumed to be a moderate to large impact.
  • If the proposed project does not exceed a numeric threshold in a question, the reviewing agency should consider the scale and context of the project in determining if an impact may be small or moderate to large.
  • These sub-questions are not meant to be exhaustive. The reviewing agency should use the "Other impacts:" sub-question to include any additional elements they feel need to be analyzed for potential impacts.

Applicable Part 1 Information

D.2.q., D.2.r., D.2.s., D.2.t., E.1.d., E.1.f., E.1.g., and E.1.h.


Answers to sub-questions (a) through (l) all offer information that will help the reviewing agency identify risks and hazards that may occur. Most of these are 'yes' or 'no' questions.

Local and State health departments are important resources that a reviewing agency should use to help assess impacts on human health. It is not expected that reviewing agencies do that assessment, but they should call upon others that do have the expertise to help them evaluate risks associated with hazardous materials and uses. For additional information, refer to chapter 3, section G, titled Interested Agency and Public Involvement, of the SEQR Handbook (PDF) (1.9MB).

In addition to the sub-questions, answering the following will assist the reviewing agency in determining the size and importance of these impacts.

  • Is there a risk of a contaminant being released to the ground, air, or water?
  • Does the proposed project include the commercial, recreational, or industrial use, application, or storage of pesticides, herbicides, or known contaminants beyond normal household use?
  • Will there be any bulk storage of petroleum or chemical products?
  • Will the proposed project generate or use hazardous air pollutants?
  • Will there be any solid or hazardous wastes to be disposed of?
  • Is there to be any unearthing of solid or hazardous materials?
  • Does the site contain a former agricultural use that is known to have used pesticides?
  • If there are hazardous substances on or near the site, is there risk of that contaminant traveling off site via water, air, or in soils?
  • What is the contaminant and what are the risks associated with it?
  • What plans, notifications, or protections are formulated to address risks?
a. The proposed action is located within 1500 feet of a school, hospital, licensed day care center, group home, nursing home or retirement community.

Some land uses, facilities, and populations tend to be more susceptible to impacts from exposure to hazardous substances than others. This may be due to age, health, mobility issues, or the fact that they live, work, congregate, or recreate in a concentrated area. There may be higher risks involved when susceptible populations are near a hazardous situation.

b. The site of the proposed action is currently undergoing remediation.
c. There is a completed emergency spill remediation, or a completed environmental site remediation on, or adjacent to, the site of the proposed action.

When a site is currently undergoing remediation, it means that hazardous materials are present. While remediation is an important activity in and of itself, it also means that there is a higher risk of release of hazardous materials.

Remediation is the corrective action performed on properties that have a history of solid or hazardous waste contamination. If there are any ongoing or completed remedial activities occurring on or adjacent to the project site, the reviewing agency should evaluate any impacts that may occur. The reviewing agency should understand the circumstances that led to such remedial actions, what the specific remediation actions are, and what risks are associated with it.

d. The site of the action is subject to an institutional control limiting the use of the property (e.g. easement or deed restriction)
e. The proposed action may affect institutional control measures that were put in place to ensure that the site remains protective of the environment and human health.

Properties that may pose a threat to human or environmental health due to past contamination may have restrictions placed on them as a mitigating measure. These may include deed restrictions that prevent certain kind of future activities, or easements that prevent development of or access to certain locations on the parcel. Any influence a project might have on these restrictions must be evaluated.

f. The proposed action has adequate control measures in place to ensure that future generation, treatment and/or disposal of hazardous wastes will be protective of the environment and human health.

If a proposed action involves hazardous wastes or risks to human health, the reviewing agency will want to ensure that adequate control measures are put into place to protect the environment and human health in the long-term. Those controls are put in place through the DEC permitting process. Land uses that include the generation, treatment, or disposal of hazardous wastes above a stated threshold will require a permit from DEC. Whether a new use, or expansion or change of an existing use involving hazardous materials, the reviewing agency should evaluate control measures and determine if changes need to be made. Evaluating adequacy of signage, emergency equipment, training, access, and on-site methods for control, for instance are all important considerations.

g. The proposed action involves construction or modification of a solid waste management facility.

This question provides information about whether solid waste will be generated or if there is a need for management of that waste. If so, the reviewing agency will need to know what kind and how much waste is to be generated, and what disposal methods or facilities will be used to deal with it. Reviewing agencies will need to evaluate whether there will be an increase in the rate of solid waste disposal or processing.

h. The proposed action may result in the unearthing of solid or hazardous waste.

If an action is on a site that unearths solid or hazardous wastes that have been previously deposited, there is a higher risk for spill, leaking, leaching, or emission of those substances into the environment.

i. The proposed action may result in an increase in the rate of disposal, or processing, of solid waste.

Some proposed projects may create solid wastes that need to be disposed of or processed. The reviewing agency should evaluate if there is existing capacity to dispose of or process these solid wastes, and if not, will there need to be an expansion or creation of facilities. More solid waste may mean more facilities are needed.

j. The proposed action may result in excavation or other disturbance within 2000 feet of a site used for the disposal of solid or hazardous waste.
k. The proposed action may result in the migration of explosive gases from a landfill site to adjacent off site structures.
l. The proposed action may result in the release of contaminated leachate from the project site.

When a project is proposed in an area that has been used for solid or hazardous waste disposal, there is added risk of placing populations within close range of these substances. There is further risk of land disturbances that may alter runoff or other conditions that will cause leachate or release of hazardous substances. When a landfill exists, especially one without modern protections such as liners, methane gases may leak or migrate off-site. Consequently, land disturbances nearby may allow that gas to move to other areas or leak out. Similarly, new land disturbances near buried contaminants may result in changes to drainage or surface runoff. This could leak down into the solid waste disposal area where the water can pick up hazardous materials and then leach out into ground or surface water sources.

Will there be an impact?

Once it has been determined that the project involves hazardous substances that may pose a risk to human health, it is unlikely that there will be situations where there are no impacts at all related to those hazardous substances. The agency may determine that there may be very small risks or that impacts are deemed to be not significant. However it is not likely there will be situations where there will be no impacts at all.

The size of the impact depends on a variety of factors. For instance, the amount of substance, type of substance, and location in the environment all have bearing on the determination if the impact will be small, or moderate to large. The reviewing agency should look carefully at information provided by the applicant and ask appropriate questions.

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Storage of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals will take place, but is done in a completely enclosed structure that meets appropriate storage requirements, and the site is greater than 300 feet from any water body, well or water source used for irrigation.
  • Solid or hazardous waste will be generated in limited amounts that can be easily handled at a permitted disposal facility. All remediation, emergency, and institutional controls are in place.
Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The reviewing agency answers 'yes' to any of the (a) through (l) sub-questions
  • There is a new use or high density residential development proposed near an existing site.
  • A site is undergoing remediation
  • Storage of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals will take place on a site that is greater than 100 feet but less than 300 feet from any water body, well or surface water source used for irrigation.
  • Solid or hazardous waste will be generated in an amount that may require additional capacity to be developed at an existing or new permitted disposal facility.
  • Storage of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals will take place on a site that is within 100 feet of any water body, well or water source used for irrigation.
m. Other impacts:

There may be other impacts identified by the reviewing agency that are not addressed by the above questions. If so, they should be identified and briefly described here.

Some proposed actions may have beneficial impacts on the environment. The reviewing agency can use the 'other' category for that purpose, too.

Back to Part 2 (FEAF) Identification of Potential Project Impacts || Continue to Part 2 (FEAF) Question 17 Consistency with Community Plans

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